Should there be separate church and state marriages in the US?

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In summary, the conversation discusses the idea of an amendment that would separate church and state in the recognition of marriages. The proposed amendment would only recognize state marriages for legal purposes, while church weddings would be solely a spiritual ceremony. This would also introduce the concept of a "state marriage" or civil union, which would be the only one recognized by the state for legal purposes. The conversation also touches on the issue of same-sex marriage and the current integration of religion in politics. There is agreement that the church has no legal authority in marriages and that separating church and state would lead to a more fair and equal system.
  • #1
theriddler876
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I have an idea for an amendment that would have two marriages, a church marriage, and a state marriage the amendment would read

Henceforth the United States of america will only recognize state marriages, and stage marriages shall be defined by the respective states

what this would do is separate church and state by not validating any church marriage for legal (tax and such) purposes so any religions could perform their ceremony, and it would be a spiritual thing between you/spouse, member of the cloth, and respective deity

then you would have a "state marriage" or civil union, which would be the only one that the state would recognize for taxes and such, and everyone would have to get one after they have done their church wedding, if they choose to have a church wedding

like I said I think this would separate church and state and would be overall more fair, I have a lot more on it, however I don't feel like typing what is your opinion, good? bad?
 
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  • #2
according to my state (infamous Oregon), a minister cannot marry a couple until they have purchased a license from the county offices. the minister is authorized to sign the license to validate and witness vows were exchanged, no different then the justice of the peace. the minister acts like a notary in this witnessing as well as having the two additional witnesses sign the license. the minister then mails the document to the county for the actual finalization of the legal marriage.

I was married this past July and purchased my license from the county here in Oregon (Multnomah) that was famous for freely issuing the marriage licenses to same sex couples. the lines inside the county offices to purchased them were incredible! very long and filled with many same sex couples eager to tie the knot.

my main point is however, Multnomah county DID have a civil union option just prior to the same sex marriage issue! any same sex couple could be legally tied to one another! then the push came along to have it "labeled" as marriage, thus began the battle, and NOW there is neither civil unions nor legal marriage for them. while i understand their urge for equal rights, it seems now their urges led them to a worse position then where they were before.

America will integrate "God" within the complicated web of politics for as long as possible. while this perspective exists, it will affect every moral issue we contend with. until our country separates completely the religion factor and the law, we will be doomed to the morals of those in power. we do want to uphold standards of conduct that do not affect others rights, but then we have the morals that if broken only affect those who choose to be involved-such as the gay marriage issue. who does it affect really? Those who fear something different then what they were taught to believe.
 
  • #3
well I mean needing a to purchase a license from the government, so that a church can marry you, that's clearly not separation of church and state.
 
  • #4
You can get married by the state ( a judge or justice of the peace), without any religious body being involved at all. The state and religious bodies have each there own interest in marriage, and they do not overlap. Or at least they didn't before the gay marriage hassle.
 
  • #5
theriddler876 said:
well I mean needing a to purchase a license from the government, so that a church can marry you, that's clearly not separation of church and state.

exactly what SA said...it is the person's choice to be married by the state or church, however you do have to purchase the license from the countyr (state).
 
  • #6
yes, but if you did not give any significance to a religios marriage, then the church would have no say, and thus no power, and thus it would be separated. and a civil union could be a constitiutional right guaranteed to everyone, but it would be nothing spiritual, very much like filing your taxes isn't spiritual
 
  • #7
theriddler876 said:
yes, but if you did not give any significance to a religios marriage, then the church would have no say, and thus no power, and thus it would be separated. and a civil union could be a constitiutional right guaranteed to everyone, but it would be nothing spiritual, very much like filing your taxes isn't spiritual

that's what i am saying, the church has no power when it comes down to marriage, it is the state ultimately that recognizes it. a person can choose to have either a priest or a judge marry them, among others.
 
  • #8
Kerrie said:
America will integrate "God" within the complicated web of politics for as long as possible. while this perspective exists, it will affect every moral issue we contend with. until our country separates completely the religion factor and the law, we will be doomed to the morals of those in power. we do want to uphold standards of conduct that do not affect others rights, but then we have the morals that if broken only affect those who choose to be involved-such as the gay marriage issue. who does it affect really? Those who fear something different then what they were taught to believe.
I completely agree.

I was married by a justice of the peace in a civil ceremony. As has been previously stated, the church is allowed by the state to witness a marriage, the church by itself has no legal authority.
 
  • #9
yes, but if every state did not recognize a church wedding, then it's meaning would be purely spiritual, and there would be separation of church and state.
 
  • #10
hmmm... maybe it is becuz i read this thread pretty fast but theriddler it seems like you are confused. as evo said the church by itself has no legal authority the wedding is purely spiritual.
 
  • #11
I like the idea of theriddler876's amendment because it seems to explicitly emphasize the separation of church and state, something that is sorely needed in these dangerous theocratic times.

I was wondering: under the law, is a civil union identical to a marriage? In other words, does a civil union carry with it the same rights, responsibilities, etc., as a marriage? Is this something determined state by state?
 
  • #12
Why not just grant the appropriate rights to civil unions, rather than tinker with definitions?
 
  • #13
Because not all gays want civil unions, they want marriage.
 
  • #14
But why? What do they find so important about the label "marriage" that would compel them to go on a dictionary rewriting campaign, and what justification do they have?

Quite honestly, the only reason I've heard stated is that it's a quick way to attain their desired legal status. My imagination, however, has also lead me to assume that they think this Orwellian attack on the English language will lead to social and religous acceptance by making it awkward to make a verbal distinction. And, as has been mentioned, this attack seems to have backfired spectacularly.
 
  • #15
Hurkyl said:
But why? What do they find so important about the label "marriage" that would compel them to go on a dictionary rewriting campaign, and what justification do they have?

Quite honestly, the only reason I've heard stated is that it's a quick way to attain their desired legal status. My imagination, however, has also lead me to assume that they think this Orwellian attack on the English language will lead to social and religous acceptance by making it awkward to make a verbal distinction. And, as has been mentioned, this attack seems to have backfired spectacularly.

I agree completely Hurkyl. But, in their perspective, they are seeking a sense of equality and not to have their affections for their partner "downplayed" to a lesser sort of relationship then what a heterosexual married couple are portrayed in society as. Perhaps for some of the same sex couples seeking legal marriage they are desiring to earn a societal approval of something once considered extremely immoral here in America. From what I have read, there are other countries that allow same sex marriage.
 
  • #16
well actually the countries youre talking about are in scandanavia, and what they have is legal civil unions for gay couples, which gives them same benefits as heterosexual couples
 
  • #17
Your amendment is unnecessary. 1) A person doesn't need to get a marriage license to get married. The license is only needed if they want their marriage to be recognized by the state, which gives them certain legal rights and privileges. Whether or not people are married in any other sense (in the eyes of their god or friends) does not concern the state. 2) The 1st Amendment already guarantees the separation of church and State.

The law cannot arbitrarily treat people differently. The question is whether the homosexual distinction is arbitrary or not. Since gender is already recognized as an arbitrary distinction (19th Amendment), it's harder to make the case for the homosexual distinction, IMO.

As far as labels go, would anyone here actually not mind being legally defined as a "halfcitizen"? Maybe you can remove any difference in the legal definition of two terms, but you cannot remove the difference it makes in the hearts and minds of people, where a different label is a difference. There is no legal justification for using two different terms anyway, and there may even be legal reasons not to use different terms. (It depends on what effect the law has in the real world.)

Whether this would open the door to polygamy and the like is irrelevant. The law cannot infringe on a citizen's rights in order to avoid other negative consequences. There are laws against cruelty to animals, yet animal sacrifice is allowed when it is part of a religious ceremony because to not allow it would be an infringement on 1st Amendment rights. (the 5th and 14th Amendments are the relevant ones here)

The "tinkering with the dictionary" argument is IMO ridiculous, and it is classed with the polygamy argument anyway, as a negative consequence.
 
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  • #18
Hurkyl said:
But why? What do they find so important about the label "marriage" that would compel them to go on a dictionary rewriting campaign, and what justification do they have?
They are justified in seeking the same label, and they legally deserve the same label, if a different label results in them being discriminated against.*
Kerrie said:
Perhaps for some of the same sex couples seeking legal marriage they are desiring to earn a societal approval
Perhaps, but social approval isn't relevant; Equal protection under the law is relevant. Of course, whether or not equal protection applies depends on whether or not the law determines homosexuality to be an arbitrary distinction.

*I cannot remember the case (I will look), but it involved a law which, as it was written, was not discriminatory, but, in practice, resulted in racial discrimination. Race has already been determined to be an arbitrary distinction (13th Amendment) and a protected group, so the law was deemed unconstitutional.
Edit: I couldn't find it. We need a Google Law!
 
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  • #19
Actually, "hate crime" legislation may be decisive in this case. I think there is even federal hate crime legislation including sexual orientation (called Matty's/Matthew's law, after Matthew Shepherd?). I'll look for this also, and edit it in.

No, according to http://assembler.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000245----000-.html only race, color, religion, and national origin

Yes, since the Crime bill, which passed in 1994 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d103:h.r.03355: ) in Title XXVIII, section 280003, defines hate crimes as:
In this section, `hate crime' means a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.

?? Anyway, it may not matter and is rather off-topic. I'll let it go :biggrin:
 
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  • #20
Er, sorry for so many posts, but it's a complicated issue :redface:

I guess, in this forum, what the law ought to be is more relevant that what the law is, so I'll just add that I think sexual orientation ought to be protected 1) if it is not a choice, for the same reasons race is protected, and 2) if it is a choice, for the same reasons religion is protected.
Happy thoughts,
Rachel
 
  • #21
They are justified in seeking the same label, and they legally deserve the same label, if a different label results in them being discriminated against.*

Would not this argument also advocate, for instance, ending racism by calling everybody white? Or ending sexism by calling all women men?
 
  • #22
Hurkyl said:
Would not this argument also advocate, for instance, ending racism by calling everybody white? Or ending sexism by calling all women men?

Sorry, to clarify, I was talking about the label "civil union" not "homosexual". It isn't matter of the law acknowledging differences but of treating people differently. By giving people the same set of rights and privileges, but calling that set by different terms depending on the recipient's sexual orientation, the law is treating the recipients differently. Acknowledging differences between people is different from acknowledging differences between the rights you give them. Make sense? One is a difference in people, the other a difference in rights and privileges.
 
  • #23
I can't believe I missed this thread and I apoligize if I belatedly repeat anything.
theriddler876 said:
I have an idea for an amendment that would have two marriages, a church marriage, and a state marriage the amendment would read

Henceforth the United States of america will only recognize state marriages, and stage marriages shall be defined by the respective states

what this would do is separate church and state by not validating any church marriage for legal (tax and such) purposes so any religions could perform their ceremony, and it would be a spiritual thing between you/spouse, member of the cloth, and respective deity

then you would have a "state marriage" or civil union, which would be the only one that the state would recognize for taxes and such, and everyone would have to get one after they have done their church wedding, if they choose to have a church wedding

like I said I think this would separate church and state and would be overall more fair, I have a lot more on it, however I don't feel like typing what is your opinion, good? bad?
This actually has two flaws, one that has already been addressed (there already are two marriages and the two are separate) and one that hasn't...

The one that hasn't been addressed is that the recent controversy isn't just over gay marriage: its over state vs state vs federal power/laws. Its actually a fairly large Constitutional issue. Your amendment addresses the state vs federal issue by saying that the fed will recognize any state marriage. But it doesn't address the tougher issue of state vs state powers.

If one state says a certain type of marriage is ok and another state says it isn't, both states need to pass laws clearly defining what is/isn't acceptable because otherwise one could just get married in a different state and bring their marriage to their home state. But where these laws conflict (and I'm sure some of the laws passed last month will cause conflicts), it will inevitably lead to some states refusing to accept the legality of certain marriages from other states, followed by legal challenges to these new laws.

There are quite a number of state vs state conflicts, from running across a border to get an abortion to running across a border to get a cheap bottle of wine.

Regarding the church/state issue, it is, of course a tenuous separation: as long as people's beliefs are based on their religion, the laws they pass will be based on their religion. There is nothing wrong with that, except when it leads to laws about religion.

One other relatively minor (for now) issue is that there are federal regulations regarding marriage dating back to when some states were territories. Polygamy was first outlawed federally, for example and was challenged all the way to the supreme court (in a decision that affirmed that yes, the government can legislate morality). It may very well happen that the gay-marriage issue results in the Fed taking marriage away from the states. IMO, issues primarily about rights, such as marriage, should be decided federally.
 
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  • #24
honestrosewater said:
Er, sorry for so many posts, but it's a complicated issue :redface:

I guess, in this forum, what the law ought to be is more relevant that what the law is, so I'll just add that I think sexual orientation ought to be protected 1) if it is not a choice, for the same reasons race is protected, and 2) if it is a choice, for the same reasons religion is protected.
Happy thoughts,
Rachel

i think it ought to be protected too, but this is an idealist perspective in the reality of a conservative administration currently...the proof of sexual orientation being a biological tendency rather then a choice of will isn't put in front of those steering the law or those voting in the law...

Perhaps, but social approval isn't relevant; Equal protection under the law is relevant. Of course, whether or not equal protection applies depends on whether or not the law determines homosexuality to be an arbitrary distinction.

ideally no-social approval isn't relavant, but realistically that is what it will take to change the way things currently are...
 
  • #25
The US was founded as a constitutional republic. It remains one today. IMO, to think that the issue of gay rights will change the US into a form of "elective despotism" is unrealistic. Looking first to the US Constitution then working your way down is a realistic way to decide the issue. My money is on reason, patience, and persistence.
Does anyone have anything to add about the stave v. state issue? For some background info, see http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/art4.html , page 831 (the first section following the table of contents).
 
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  • #26
Sorry, to clarify, I was talking about the label "civil union" not "homosexual".

I know. Allow me to clarify as well, by adding "ending discrimination based on wealth by calling everybody rich" to my list of examples.
 
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  • #27
Hurkyl said:
I know. Allow me to clarify as well, by adding "ending discrimination based on wealth by calling everybody rich" to my list of examples.

Okay, I should say first that the legally deserve part isn't my argument, it was a decision I read. Of course, I can't find the decision now, so I can't tell you the court's reasoning.
That said, I'm not sure where you're going with wealth.?
My argument isn't that the law is responsible for ending any and all discrimination. My argument is that the law must consider, and is responsible for, the consequences of it's actions. (I don't know how anyone can dispute this point.) In this case, though different labels can be technically defined to mean the same, those technicalities are lost in the real world. You live in the real world, right? :wink: Can you honestly say that legally defining women as "citizens" and men as "halfcitizens" would be inconsequential? Creating and applying the label is treatment because the label applies in the real world. If the law is required to grant the same set of rights, that is, to treat two groups equally, it is required to call that set of rights by the same name. The name is part of the set.
The only reason to use two different labels is to make a distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals. If the law decides such a distinction is arbitrary, it cannot use two different labels! (that's for emphasis, not yelling.)
 
  • #28
However, you've not argued we should create a new legal term that covers both civil unions and marriages. You've argued we should take one of these pre-existing terms and change its definition so it covers both cases.

I counterargued by bringing up other examples where discrimination has occured/is occurring, and showing how this same idea is ridiculous.
 
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  • #29
Hurkyl said:
You've argued we should take one of these pre-existing terms and change its definition so it covers both cases.
I don't see where I said that, but anyway, it's not what I meant. The law can use whatever label it wants, as long as it only uses one label. It can call it marriage, civil union, legal union, or marshmallows. Though IMO the label should respect the nature of the law (calling it marshmallows isn't very respectful). Indeed, using a new label may be the only way to please everyone.

I counterargued by bringing up other examples where discrimination has occured/is occurring, and showing how this same idea is ridiculous.

Oh, I misunderstood, and I agree, your argument is ridiculous. :biggrin: The law cannot hope to end racial discrimination by calling everyone white, I agree. That isn't what I've been suggesting.
The law's range is limited. Ideally, it does not intrude into the private sphere, into people's thoughts and beliefs, where the individual is sovereign. In the private sphere, people can arbitrarily discriminate.
The law is not in the private sphere, it's in the public sphere, and the law cannot arbitrarily discriminate. That is my whole argument. And my argument is based upon the law itself.
 
  • #30
I don't see where I said that,

I guess I merely inferred it, from your response

"They are justified in seeking the same label, and they legally deserve the same label, if a different label results in them being discriminated against.*"

To my statement

"But why? What do they find so important about the label "marriage" that would compel them to go on a dictionary rewriting campaign, and what justification do they have?"



Until the recent homosexual rights movements, there was never any question that the word "marriage" referred only to mixed couples. You seemed to be supporting the push to redefine "marriage" to include same sex couples as well, which prompted my responses.
 
  • #31
I can see Hurkyl's point. The idea of marriage was meant, at least in the legal sense, to promote the idea of the nuclear family, one mother, one father, and however many children. Homosexuals are not being discriminated against in that they are perfectly within their rights to marry - they just cannot marry a person of the same sex, because that isn't what marriage was meant for.

The only legal argument they have is in the case of rights granted to married couples (on the basis of their living together and essentially becoming family, not on the basis of their having children), such as tax breaks and rights of attorney and time off work for spousal illness. These rights should be granted to any couple that lives together and makes the vows to one another, regardless of what you want to call their union.

The qualm that anti-gay marriage folks seem to have (I don't personally have this qualm, but I can see where others might) is that homosexuals are not simply seeking to be granted these rights. They are seeking to change the idea of marriage from what it has historically been into something that they can take place in. As Hurkyl points out, this is a bit like seeking to change the definition of "rich" so that poor people can feel included at the country club.
 
  • #32
loseyourname said:
Homosexuals are not being discriminated against in that they are perfectly within their rights to marry - they just cannot marry a person of the same sex, because that isn't what marriage was meant for.

Great, this is the separate issue of whether the law must give homosexuals and heterosexuals the same set of rights with regards to "marriage". You are making the distinction on the grounds of a definition of "marriage". Does this same argument apply to the definition of "religion"? That is, can the state make a distinction between the objects of religious worship? For instance, everyone has the right to practice their religion, as long as the object of that religious worship is God, as defined by Christianity, on the grounds that worship of another being is not "religion"?
In other words, can the state say that a "religion" worshipping something other than God is not a "religion"?
Is the above question the same as, "Can the state say that a "marriage" to something other than your opposite gender is not a "marriage"?" Yes? No? What is the difference?
___
Edit: Please excuse me, I am working on making the argument more concise.
Simply, if the state can tell you who or what you can or cannot marry, can the state tell you who or what you can or cannot worship/believe in?
It seems the state must make some distinction. What is an appropriate distinction? And what are the grounds?

I'm not trying to scare anyone, just pointing out, rightly, that the same argument can be applied to more than one situation.
 
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  • #33
What is the difference?

Religion is not defined to be "worship of the God of Christianity".
Marriage is defined to be between a male and a female.
 
  • #34
Hurkyl said:
Religion is not defined to be "worship of the God of Christianity".
Marriage is defined to be between a male and a female.

I'll assume you misunderstood my questions: How are the definitions of religion and marriage determined, for legal purposes? How are legal rights effected by those definitions?

I am only talking about legal terms. I thought we just went through this. I used "marriage" because, currently, that's the term used for the set of rights to which I am referring. I'm not suggesting marriage is the term which should be used.
 
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  • #35
loseyourname said:
They are seeking to change the idea of marriage from what it has historically been into something that they can take place in. As Hurkyl points out, this is a bit like seeking to change the definition of "rich" so that poor people can feel included at the country club.

why can't it be changed? so much throughout history has changed...why can't the legal definition of marriage be changed?

loseyourname said:
The idea of marriage was meant, at least in the legal sense, to promote the idea of the nuclear family, one mother, one father, and however many children. Homosexuals are not being discriminated against in that they are perfectly within their rights to marry - they just cannot marry a person of the same sex, because that isn't what marriage was meant for.

even now marriage rates have dropped...people are starting to cohabit outside of marriage. marriage has realllly dwindled down in the last century or so...people don't take it seriously anymore. divorce is legal, and oh now they can get annulments. people just don't take it for the seriousness that it once was. why not alter it? why are heterosexuals able to marry the one they love but it is illegal for homosexuals to marry the one they love? :confused:
 

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